As West Virginia legislators wrestle with proposed education reform (i.e., WV Senate Bill 451), parents need time and opportunities to ask what educational reforms and innovations are most beneficial to our children. Below are questions that I would like to see included in the discussion about educational reform. Some of the questions listed below are ideas adapted from Education Week’s second annual “10 Big Ideas in Education” report.[i]
Families Leading Change encourages parental involvement in their local schools. We want parents to talk with their children and teachers about concerns they have regarding local school improvement projects, their child’s classroom, as well as finding out how their child’s schools are impacted by current and pending state policies and regulations.
I hope these questions open doors for positive dialog and engagement with your local school improvement council (LSIC) and state representatives.
- How are public magnet schools addressed in the Senate Bill 451 Education Reform Bill?
How do the benefits and choices available to parents and students through a magnet school vs. a charter school differ? A public magnet school is open to all students within a school district or designated combination of school districts, regardless of pupil address. A public magnet school is similar to traditional public schools in regard to being accountable to the local school board and to the state board of education. A public magnet school is held to the same standards as traditional public schools, abut also offers a particular academic focus alongside the standard curriculum.
A charter school is a public school that is independent of school district oversight and is instead accountable to local or state school boards based on a contractual agreement. A charter school is privately run. It may receive public as well as private funding, cannot charge tuition, and is open to all children within a defined area. Entrance to a charter school does not require entrance exams, but all charter schools must have students complete all in state testing and federal accountability programs. Most charter schools are managed by nonprofit organizations, but 15% of all U.S. charter schools get funding from for-profit entities, which makes them for-profit entities.
Read more about the differences between Charter Schools vs. Magnet Schools (https://www.niche.com/blog/charter-schools-vs-magnet-schools/) .
- How can government and philanthropic institutions improve their relationships with teachers?
When teachers look for institutions to trust these days, more and more teachers are finding district, state, and federal government decisions increasingly frustrating. For example, in the February 11th, 2019 public hearing on WV Senate Education Reform Bill 451, Jessica Salfia, an English teacher at Spring Mills High School in Berkeley County, voiced her concerns to House Delegates that, “Senate Bill 451 does little to improve educational outcomes for West Virginia students…Last week, I listened to elected officials falsely claim that public education in this state is failing. The great work of my life was compared to a fatal disease. I have never felt less empowered.”
Part of teachers’ mistrust of institution officials may also result from the frequency with which administrators with power over teachers’ work change course. An Education Week survey of educators from 2017[ii]found that 84 percent of respondents said they agreed with the statement, “I get a handle on a new reform and then it changes.” And 58 percent said there had been either “too much” or “way too much” change in the education field during the two previous years.
One positive outcome of increased teacher activism is that their vocal participation through rallies and public hearings shows their commitment and faith in democratic processes and their faith that bringing forward their message will persuade the public of their sincere concern for the children they teach.
- How can WV schools provide a successful path to a bright future for all children?
As Vincent Pinti, a senior at Bridgeport High School stated in his remarks[iii]to WV House of Delegates at the February 11, 2019 public hearing, “[We should] demand that you [legislators] will do your job and make sure every school across [WV] is given the resources they need to get ahead.”
Forty years since students with disabilities were legally guaranteed a public school education, many still don’t receive the education they deserve, according to Christina A. Samuels[iv]. In addition to dealing with disparities in funding for special education, WV schools are overwhelmed with the need to address students’ critical issues related to poverty[v], truancy, mental health, and trauma.
Moving forward Judith Heumann suggests that we must realize that education for all cannot succeed with a one-size-fits-all model: “In our schools every day, we understand that students’ lives are impacted not only by what is happening in the classroom, but by poverty, health care, safety, employment, and housing. We must develop high standards for administrator and teacher licensure, provide sufficient funding to support our schools, and provide grants and loan forgiveness for educators. We must work with local, state, and national businesses to understand the future of work and the kind of learning that must be going on in our schools every day.”[vi]
[i]Another Take on This BIG Idea: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/01/09/special-education-is-broken.html?print=1
[iii]Remarks quoted in online article: Mistich, D. (February 11, 2019). W.VA. Delegates Get Earful During ‘Omnibus’ Education Bill Hearing. The Legislature Today, WV Public Broadcasting ((https://plus.google.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tinyurl.com%2Fy287p39b) ).
[iv]Special education must move beyond a one-size-fits-all model, explains disability civil rights pioneer Judith Heumann. (https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/01/09/special-education-is-broken.html?print=1)
[v]September 13, 2018 (https://www.wvnews.com/news/wvnews/west-virginia-poverty-rate-is-up-and-has-not-decreased/article_bbc6689e-99ea-5bc7-983e-2ffb9b44d734.html) , West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy reported that 19.1 percent of the state’s population live in poverty, which is 5.7 percentage points higher than the national average.
[vi]Another Take on This BIG Idea: (https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2019/01/09/special-education-is-broken.html?print=1)